Graphic novels tell stories of Palestinian youths arrested on spurious grounds

 

Drawing shows close-up of shackled hand, foot, prison bars

Detail of Samar Ghazal’s “I am Palestinian”

Approximately ten young Palestinians gathered at the Sharek Youth Forum in Ramallah to spend an entire day drawing and writing graphic novels chronicling anecdotes of their lives living under Israeli occupation. It was the third and last day of an intensive workshop run by young Palestinian and international volunteers as part of the new initiative Palestine Through Graphics.

A 23-year-old participant, Thaer Abu Rob, narrated the story of his graphic novel as he flipped through the pages of his drawings. Abu Rob’s illustrated story dealt with his arrest in Jerusalem and subsequent imprisonment.

His drawings show him hurrying home through the streets with four friends after hearing explosions, and all four being arrested by Israeli forces. “Here, the solider has arrested me and some of my friends … I don’t know why I was arrested, really. I’m very sad there.”

Subtle details

Young woman speaks to girl drawing

Palestine Through Graphics participants learn basic drawing and storytelling skills.

The magic of the drawings are in the subtle details that humanize the story. Abu Rob draws himself wearing his favorite football player’s jersey as he is arrested by Israeli forces. Later, in prison, he depicts himself walking through the complex in front of painted images of Handala — the assassinated cartoonist Naji al-Ali’s populist character which symbolizes the Palestinian refugees’ struggle — on the wall. In images of Abu Rob’s court date, a comically angry judge, sitting high on a podium, sentences him to four months in prison for throwing stones.

“I didn’t throw stones,” Abu Rob explained. Pointing to a drawing of himself throwing his hands in the air in frustration, he said, “Here, after the judgment, I was very sad.” After four months in prison, he is drawn being released, speaking the words, “Al-hamdulilah [thanks to God], I’m free.”

Abu Rob, who volunteers with Sharek Youth Forum in Jenin, joined the Palestine Through Graphics program as a participant after attending one of the outreach workshops that have been held throughout the West Bank in recent months.

“On average, we try to have one workshop a week,” explained Jon Ross, a volunteer with the forum. “It lasts for two days and we travel around. One was in Jenin, Qalqiliya, Nablus, [and] Hebron.”

At the outreach workshops, participants learn basic storytelling skills, such as setting the scene and developing story arcs. They also learn basic drawing and layout skills.

Participants vary in age. “The youngest we’ve had was about five years old,” Ross said. “Ideally we want a bit older, but we let them come anyway because they want to participate. But on average, [they’re] between thirteen to early twenties.”

Trying to “reach outside”

Drawing shows scene of Israeli checkpoint in Palestinian city

Detail of “Mother’s Day” by Ali Zhour

The workshops are held at Sharek Youth Forum centers throughout the West Bank. The organization, founded in 1996, concentrates on youth empowerment and advocacy. Through recent surveys, the organization estimated that it reaches approximately 50,000 young Palestinians through its 22 centers in the West Bank and Gaza.

Many of Sharek’s programs focus on offering Palestinian youth a platform for expressing their opinions to a wider international audience. The graphic novel program has similar aims, through visual means.

Feda Ayyass, a local Sharek volunteer who is one of the main organizers of the project, said, “Our voice is not heard by anyone, and all of our participants have a story about life under occupation, but there is no one who can hear us. So we try to let our voice reach outside [Palestine] through graphic novels.”

At the outreach workshops held throughout the West Bank, volunteers with the project search for talented Palestinians, and fund them to come to Ramallah for intensive workshops, the first of which occurred in March. For three days, volunteers and local artists worked with participants to develop and finish their graphic novels.

This was only the first of three intensive workshops scheduled for the coming months, among weekly outreach workshops throughout the West Bank. Within a year, the program hopes to develop and publish a book of the work created by the participants who are invited to the intensive workshops in Ramallah.

Local participant Dima Nimer, attending the March workshop, illustrated her experience at a Rami Levy Israeli grocery store in the West Bank. When the young Palestinian woman accidentally dropped a piece of paper on the ground on her way into the store, she was subsequently stopped by security and taken to an Israeli police station, where she was interrogated for 12 hours.

Describing the Palestine Through Graphics program, Nimer said, “It’s a lovely experience and I benefit from it very much.” She chose to illustrate this particular story in order to give an example of “how Israel treats Palestinians. We want to show the world that Palestinians are not terrorists.”

Palestine Through Graphics is still in its initial phases, and has many goals for the coming months. In addition to publishing a book, the program’s volunteers hope to have the work digitalized and displayed online, as well as organized into an exhibition to be shown at the Ramallah Heritage Center.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

Een edele strijd met grote consequenties voor het leven…

By Marianna Laarif

Bismillâhi Rahmâni Rahîm, Alhamdulillâhi Rabbil ‘Âlamîn was-salâtu was-salâmu ‘alâ nabiyyinâ Muhammadin wa ‘alâ ahlihi wa ashâbihi aj’ma’în amma’ ba’d.

In de Naam van Allâh, de Erbarmer, de Meest Barmhartige.

As-salâm ‘alaykum warahmatullâhi wa barakâtuh beste broeder of zuster,

Allâh de Verhevene zegt in Zijn Luisterrijke Qur’ân (interpretatie van de betekenis):
“Denken jullie dat jullie het Paradijs zullen binnentreden, terwijl het gelijke dat tot degenen kwam die voor jullie zijn heengegaan, nog niet tot jullie is gekomen? Rampen en tegenspoed troffen hen en zij werden zó geschokt dat de Boodschapper en degenen die met hem geloofden, zeiden: “Wanneer komt de hulp van Allâh?” Weet; voorwaar, de hulp van Allâh is nabij.” {Qs 2:214}
Iedere moslim die zich inzet voor de hervatting van het islâmitische leven zal uiteindelijk de strijd aan moeten gaan, omdat het conformeren aan de islâmitische wetgeving en het streven naar het Hiernamaals betekent dat het wereldse opgeofferd dient te worden wat nooit zonder slag of stoot zal gaan.

De eerste strijd die gestreden dient te worden zal dan ook altijd de strijd met jezelf zijn. Het is een zoektocht naar de bereidheid om daadwerkelijk afstand te willen nemen van al datgene wat in strijd is met de Wil van Allâh de Verhevene. Het vergt kracht en doorzettingsvermogen om je lusten en verlangens om te buigen totdat deze in lijn zijn met datgene wat Allâh de Schepper van je verlangt. Deze strijd kent ook geen einde, deze innerlijke vijand zal steeds opnieuw de kop opsteken waarna hij telkens weer bestreden dient te worden.

Ook is het stellen van vertrouwen in Allâh de Almachtige en het hebben van geduld een belangrijk onderdeel van deze strijd. Hoe sterk ben ik, wanneer familie en vrienden zich van mij afkeren omdat ik de weg van Allâh gekozen heb? Het vergt enorm veel geduld om steeds opnieuw de kracht te willen vinden om door te gaan met de missie die Allâh de Verhevene Zijn dienaren heeft opgelegd. Vele Qur’ânverzen en overleveringen spreken hierover en geven houvast om het juiste pad te kiezen, maar dan moet je wel in staat zijn om de Islâm in te zetten als praktische handleiding in plaats van als een spiritueel theoretisch kader.

Helaas maken velen vandaag een fout door te denken dat de Islâm alleen maar een innerlijke strijd kent, waardoor de illusie is ontstaan dat de Islâm niet voorbij de muren van de moskee reikt, of buiten de maag tijdens de Ramadân. Wij dienen de strijd aan te gaan met de buitenwereld, op elk denkbaar vlak, zoals zij de strijd tegen de Islâm en de moslims zijn aangegaan. Wij dienen steeds opnieuw bereid te zijn om de intellectuele strijd aan te gaan met de systemen, concepten en gedachten van zowel de misleide gelovigen als de ongelovigen totdat aanbidding alleen voor Allâh de Verhevene is en er enkel nog recht gesproken wordt door middel van datgene wat Allah de Wetgever heeft geopenbaard.

Dit heeft wel consequenties voor het leven van de moslim(a) die zich heeft onderworpen aan de wil van zijn/haar Schepper en Zijn Tevredenheid als doel gesteld heeft. Deze consequenties zijn bekend uit de overleveringen en de biografie van onze geliefde profeet (vrede en zegeningen zij met hem) en de metgezellen (moge Allâh tevreden met hun zijn), maar deze ervaring zou voor ons vandaag de dag ook realiteit moeten zijn. Zij voerden namelijk dezelfde intellectuele en fysieke strijd tegen ongeloof als dat wij dit vandaag de dag zouden moeten doen. Hiervoor moeten wij wel gevoelens van angst en onzekerheid in juiste banen leiden, zodat wij in staat zijn de consequenties hiervan te aanvaarden, vertrouwende dat Allâh de Alwijze weet wat het beste voor ons is. Maar helaas kiezen velen van ons de gemakkelijke en tevens de verkeerde weg en hun streven bestaat dan ook slechts uit het praktiseren van de Islâm op een symbolische wijze.

Trekken wij dan géén lering uit de islâmitische geschiedenis, om te beseffen dat ook wij onze Islâm danken aan diegenen die zich onderwierpen aan de Wil van Allâh, ten koste van alles wat zij bezaten?

Als wij bereid zijn om terug te keren naar wat de leiding die Allâh de Leidinggevende ons heeft geschonken, door middel van het licht van de Edele Qur’ân en het uitmuntende voorbeeld van Zijn boodschapper (vrede en zegeningen zij met hem) en bereid zijn om te werken voor de islâmisering van het land, dan zullen wij met de Wil van Allâh in staat zijn om elke intellectuele, financiële en morele crisis tot een goed eind te brengen.

We vragen Allâh bij Zijn Schone Namen en Verheven Eigenschappen om ons leiding, hulp en overwinning te schenken. En ons van zwakheden en onenigheden te verwijderen, opdat wij als één lichaam ten strijde kunnen trekken tegen al datgene wat tegen Uw Wil is. Hij, de Verhevene en de Geprezene, is de Enige die hiertoe in staat is.

Subhânaka Allâhumma wa bihamdik, ash-hadu allâ illâha illâ anta, wa astaghfiruka wa atûbu ilayk.

Wa ‘alaykum as-salâm warahmatullâh,

Myanmar president vows to protect Muslim rights

Myanmar President Thein Sein.

Myanmar President Thein Sein, nearly one year after sectarian violence first exploded under his watch, vowed Monday his government would do everything it can to protect the rights of minority Muslims living in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

The promise came amid fears that the religious unrest, which has morphed into a campaign against the country’s Muslim community, could spread further after a new round of attacks last week saw several Muslim villages north of the main city Yangon burned to the ground.

Thein Sein’s administration, which came to power in 2011 after half a century of military rule, has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to protect Muslims or stop the violence from spreading since it began with clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in the west last year.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused authorities – including Buddhist monks, local politicians, government officials, and state security forces – of fomenting an organized campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslims; the government has denied the charges. So far, hundreds of people have died and more than 135,000 people – almost all of them Muslims – have fled their homes.

In a speech broadcast on state television late Monday, Thein Sein vowed his “government will take all necessary action to ensure the basic human rights of Muslims in Rakhine state, and to accommodate the needs and expectations of the Rakhine people.”

“In order for religious freedom to prevail, there must be tolerance and mutual respect among the members of different faiths,” he said. Only then, he added, “will it be possible to coexist peacefully.”

During his speech, the Myanmar leader also announced he would implement the recommendations of a special government-appointed panel set up last year to investigate the causes of the conflict.

The panel – whose members included ethnic Rakhine but no Rohingya – made myriad recommendations; including doubling the number of security forces in Rakhine state and introducing family planning programs to stem population growth among Muslims.

The Rohingya living in Rakhine state are widely seen as foreign intruders – illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh who are largely denied citizenship even though many of them have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Thein Sein said his administration will “take all necessary security measures to deter illegal immigration,” and “will deal with the citizenship-related issues,” though he gave no details on how.

He promised aid to strife-hit Rakhine state and said his government would assist foreign aid organizations working in the country. But he said some international relief agencies operating there “may have worsened the situation” and should take into account “local sensitivities when planning activities.”

Local Buddhists have repeatedly accused foreign aid groups of biased in favor of the Rohingya. International aid agencies, meanwhile, have complained their work has been obstructed and their staff have been physically threatened by extremists; they acknowledge that much aid is directed at the Rohingya, but they argue that is simply because the vast majority of displaced are Rohingya.

Thein Sein, who has been praised by the West for making moves to transition to democratic rule, also said that although free speech is the essence of democracy, “some people abuse this right with speech intended to provoke, cause fear and spread hatred, thereby exacerbating the conflict between different religious communities.”

In recent months, a Buddhist campaign called “969,” which urges Buddhists to shop only at Buddhist stores and avoid marrying, hiring or selling their homes or land to Muslims, has spread rapidly across the nation. Human rights activists say it has helped fuel anti-Muslim violence.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

Employees at Bethlehem, Hebron municipalities to strike

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – A committee representing employees at municipal and local councils in Bethlehem and Hebron announced Sunday a number of protests to urge the Palestinian ministry of local governance to secure employees’ rights.

The committee said in a statement that employees would go on a two-hour strike Monday from 8-10 a.m. Then on Wednesday, employees will leave work at 10 a.m.

On May 13, 20, and 21, employees will go on public strike excluding emergency employees.

According to the statement, the protests came after the ministry of local governance failed to reach an agreement with the committee over a clear retirement system that protects employees’ rights.

Further protests will be announced later if the ministry does not respond positively to the committee’s demands, the statement added.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

Taliban bomb kills 18 at Pakistan election rally

Pakistani soldiers keep watch at the state-run Printing Corporation of Pakistan in Lahore on May 6, 2013.

A bomb tore through a political rally in Pakistan Monday, killing 18 people and wounding 55 in the most deadly attack so far during the campaign for historic elections at the weekend.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the target had been a lawmaker elected as an independent but allied to the outgoing government. Officials said the lawmaker escaped unhurt.

Monday’s bombing brings to 87 the number of people killed in attacks on politicians and political parties since April 11, according to an AFP tally.

The device hit a rally by the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a religious party in the outgoing government coalition in Kurram, part of Pakistan’s Taliban-infested tribal belt on the Afghan border.

“The death toll has now risen to 18,” Tashfeen Khan, a senior official in Peshawar, the main town of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province told AFP.

Earlier, Riaz Khan, the top administrative official in Kurram, told AFP that at least 14 people had been killed.

“I fear the death toll could rise further because several of the injured are in a critical condition,” Khan said.

Doctor Najeeb Khan from the main hospital in Kurram tribal district told AFP that 55 injured had been taken to the hospital.

The bomb was planted inside a building that was the venue for the rally of two national assembly candidates representing the JUI party led by cleric Fazul-ur-Rehman.

The apparent target, Munir Orakzai, escaped unhurt while Khan said the other candidate, Ain u Din Shakir, was slightly injured.

It was the first attack on a political party in the tribal belt since campaigning began for what will be Pakistan’s first democratic transition of power after a civilian government has completed a full term in office.

Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso strongly condemned the attack and said one of the national assembly candidates had been injured.

Repeated calls for candidates to be granted more security have failed to stop a wave of attacks, most of them claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.

“Basically it was an attack on Munir Orakzai, who was a part of the past government for five years,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The Pakistani Taliban have condemned Saturday’s elections as un-Islamic and directly threatened the main parties in the outgoing coalition, the Pakistan People’s Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party (ANP).

“He supported the People’s Party and ANP government, which launched several operations against us,” Ehsan told AFP.

Rehman and his JUI party — known as JUI-F — have been mediators between the authorities and the Taliban, blamed for killing thousands of Pakistanis in a domestic insurgency over the past six years.

Orakzai is a senior tribal politician who is standing for JUI-F for the first time. The Taliban denied that JUI-F itself was the target.

Elections have been postponed in three constituencies where candidates have been killed. Those constituencies are in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, in Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi and in southern Hyderabad.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

Lawyer: A Palestinian child attempted suicide in an Israeli jail

images_News_2013_05_06_child-abuse_300_0[1]
RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Human rights lawyer Heba Masaleha said one of the Palestinian children detained in an Israeli jail tried to commit suicide as a result of the severe depression he suffers from because of his exposure to maltreatment at the hands of jailers.

Masaleha refrained from mentioning the name of the child, but she said she visited him in jail.

She stated that the child has been staying in bed for three days without moving or talking to anyone, except about his intention to commit suicide, adding that the child cannot sleep properly at night and already refused to eat food for two days.

She affirmed that the prison doctor said the child suffered from a psychological problem, adding that the prison administration also brought an Arab doctor from Nazareth to oversee him without any noticeable improvement in his condition.

Aside from their exposure to abuse and humiliation at the hands of Israeli soldiers and jailers, the mere separation of the Palestinian minors and children from their parents and families causes them to suffer psychologically, the lawyer warned.

In another incident, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped a group of Palestinian minors working as a drum band without any reason, according to Bayarek center for prisoners’ affairs on Sunday.

The center said that the children were on their way to a Palestinian folkloric festival that was held in the West Bank in solidarity with prisoner Samer Issawi, who ended his months-long hunger strike recently after a deal with his jailers.

The center underlined that the Israeli occupation regime deliberately kidnap Palestinian children to break their spirits in violation of the international law, which stipulates the need for protecting the children and their right to grow safely without any restrictions on their freedom.

It noted that there are about 321 children, 30 of them patients, in Israeli jails.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

General: Any arms Israel targeted in Syria not Iranian

A chicken walks on what Syrian state media said was the damage caused by an Israeli airstrike on May 5, 2013.

TEHRAN (AFP) — A top Iranian general said any arms Israel targeted in Syria did not come from Iran, in remarks published on the Revolutionary Guards website on Monday.

Brig.-Gen. Masoud Jazayeri “denied Western and Israeli media reports that an Iranian weapons depot has been targeted in Syria,” the website reported.

“The Syrian government does not need Iran’s military aid, and these sorts of reports are propaganda and psychological war,” added the deputy chief of the armed forces.

A senior Israeli source said Israel carried out an airstrike near Damascus before dawn on Sunday, targeting Iranian missiles destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the second such raid on Syria in three days.

The attack targeted a facility just northwest of the Syrian capital, very close to the site of a similar attack late in January which was implicitly confirmed by Israel, the source said.

He also confirmed Israel was behind an earlier strike on a target very close to Damascus airport which took place early on Friday, which also struck Iranian arms destined for the Shiite movement.

Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi on Monday urged the international community to stop Israel from carrying out such attacks.

Unless they are halted, “events may occur in the region in which the Zionist regime (Israel) and the US would not be victorious,” said Vahidi.

“Certainly the Syrian government in an appropriate time will respond to the Zionist regime. The Zionist regime will receive decisive responses from Syria,” he added.

Iran has remained a steadfast ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime throughout the Syrian conflict which has killed more than 70,000 people since it erupted in March 2011.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

Syria: UN human rights inquiry continues, panel has ‘no conclusive findings’ on use of chemical weapons

Members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

6 May 2013 – With its investigation continuing into violations of human rights in Syria, an independent United Nations panel today said it has “no conclusive findings” regarding the use of chemical weapons by any of the parties to the conflict in the country.

In a statement, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it wished to clarify that is has not reached any final findings on the use of chemical weapons and “as a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.”

Chairperson of the Commission, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, reminded all parties to the conflict that “the use of chemical weapons is prohibited in all circumstances under customary international humanitarian law.”

The Commission, which was created in August 2011, comprises Mr. Sergio Pinheiro, Karen AbuZayd, Carla del Ponte and Vitit Muntarbhorn. It has been mandated by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the conflict in Syria.

The Commission is scheduled to issue its findings to the Council on 3 June.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his appeal last week for unfettered access to Syria for a separate United Nations team focused specifically on probing the alleged use of chemical weapons during the conflict.

That fact-finding team, headed by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, was launched in late March following a formal request from the Syrian Government. However, it has been on stand-by for a month, pending authorized access from Syrian authorities. Mr. Sellström, according to the Secretary-General’s Spokesman, continues consultations with all the parties, including all concerned Governments, to pursue his investigation.

More than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and some 3 million displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

One dead after gunfight involving Egypt PM guards

CAIRO (AFP) — A passerby who was wounded in a firefight between Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s bodyguards and a group of “thugs” died of his injuries on Monday, a security official said.

The man, a street vendor, was shot in the neck on Sunday night when a group of people driving a pick up traded fire with Qandil’s bodyguards who were traveling in a convoy with him. Qandil was not hurt.

His bodyguards opened fire at the truck carrying five people that had cut into Qandil’s convoy as it crossed Cairo’s October 6 bridge across the Nile.

Shots were returned from the pick up truck before the driver and the passengers were arrested.

A security official said the suspects claimed they had been unaware of Qandil’s presence in the motorcade and had not shot at his car.

Egyptian media reported in February that protesters threw stones and bottles at the prime minister’s motorcade as he tried to enter Cairo’s Tahrir Square after overnight clashes nearby and at the presidential palace.

His office said in a statement later, without elaborating, that he had been “confronted by youths and troublemakers”.

(Source / 06.05.2013)

Israel mulls new strategy on muzzling its critics

Jerusalem conference will discuss ways of thwarting campaigns urging a boycott of Israel.

Israel’s foreign ministry is preparing to hold the fourth international conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, a gathering that has served as an important focus for efforts to fight Palestine solidarity activism and boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns.

Meeting in Jerusalem between 28 and 30 May, the conference is officially hosted by Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister who is currently standing in for Avigdor Lieberman, while the latter’s trial for fraud continues. The Global Forum was established in 2000, with international conferences in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Those coming from around the world to participate in this month’s conference will be attending an “anti-racist” meeting being run by a government guilty of institutional discrimination and apartheid. In fact, Elkin is himself a settleropposed to a Palestinian state and a supporter of anti-boycott legislation.

It is evident from the conference’s official agenda and “working group mission statements”that this year, as on previous occasions, delegates will have Palestine solidarity activists in their sights.

The 2007 conference ran working groups on “academic and economic boycotts: pre-emptive strategies” as well as “means of response to hostile faculty and student bodies.” In 2009, the conference ran a working group intended to “come up with imaginative, effective and successful solutions to counter this evil [of BDS],” with participants coming from a variety of Jewish communal organizations and hasbara groups. (Hasbara is the Hebrew term for “explaining” but has become synonymous with Israeli propaganda.) Topicsdiscussed included a “five-year plan” involving the implementation of “legislative prohibitions vs. BDS,” taking into account “different legal traditions.”

“Positive image”

This year’s gathering is no different, with three working groups of particular interest for anti-apartheid campaigners. The first is “the working group on the guise of delegitimization and anti-Zionism,” whose goal is “to identify… new legal, political, economic and other strategies [that] can be employed to pre-empt and defeat these campaigns” such as “changing the law to sentence boycott activists.”

Aside from a commitment to further “lawfare” strategies — challenging Palestine solidarity campaigns in court — this group also aims to “improve communication and intelligence about the delegitimizers” and “identify offensive steps that can be taken … to help create a more positive image of Israel.”

Another task force of interest is the “working group on law, legislation and enforcement in combating anti-Semitism,” which notes the role of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in the US context, and that “anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses … have not been banned and create a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students.”

A goal for the group is to discuss “the feasibility of implementing the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ working definition of anti-Semitism in university campuses,” and “recommend [its] adoption … within university campuses and law enforcement agencies.” (The EU “definition” — never formally endorsed by the Union — was drawn up by pro-Israel lobbyists and deliberately conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.)

Finally, a third working group is dedicated to “anti-Semitism on campus and education for tolerance and mutual respect.” The preamble talks about college campuses having become “increasingly hostile to Jewish students and scholars,” when in fact, what they are referring to is “Israel [being] increasingly delegitimized and demonized on campus.”

The explanation for this state of affairs includes “the impact of funding, and potential funding, from Gulf states to academic institutions in the West” and, in the case of France and Belgium, “a convergence between brown, green and red ideologies.”

“Prosecutor not victims”

The group explains that hasbara efforts by “most pro-Israel organizations, including diplomatic representatives” have been focused on countering “the negative campaign against Israel with a strategy of positive messaging about Israel, unrelated to the conflict.” This is a reference to the “Brand Israel” project, which aims to distract from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by depicting Israel as liberal and sophisticated.

But “Brand Israel” is deemed to be insufficient. There is a need for “a new effective strategy to confront the demonization of Israel” that “put[s] the focus on Israel’s detractors, rather than on Israel itself,” according to a preparatory document. The group proposes using “the language of human rights” as “prosecutors not as victims.”

Other suggestions include “research … to discern the group or groups that may be funding, directing, influencing and/or manipulating anti-Israel agitation,” and “critical studies of Palestinian society, and other Middle Eastern societies, its politics and culture for developing a new symbolical weapon in this struggle.”

Overall, the tone of these working groups suggests that years of successes for BDS campaigns have increased the desperation of the Israel lobby, boosting support for “offensive” lawfare-based tactics, alongside “positive” hasbara. Ironically, given that the conference is hosted by a settler, delegates forget that colonialism and state-sanctioned racism are what continue to “delegitimize” Israel.

(Source / 06.05.2013)